Well, I got my hands on a copy of that Popular Mechanics article over lunch yesterday. It was kind of informative, but I wasn’t sure I really liked the slant. They did a good job of showing the cool stuff that Armadillo is working on, but their main angle seemed to be focusing on all the failures, and problems, possibly leaving one who didn’t know John and his team better thinking that these guys were a bunch of dangerouse, cavalier, and unprofessional rocket geeks. While the rocket geeks part is probably true enough, the rest of it I think is a bit unfair. John’s team does take risks, and does focus more on doing rapid “build it, test it, break it, and then build it better, try again” cycles than we do at MSS, but they do have quite a bit to show for it.
The one thing that really bugs me is a funny anecdote that I’m almost positive was incorrect. Basically there was a short line about how when Armadillo disconnected their LOX hook-up, some of the drops spilled on asphalt, and Russ Blink said something like “don’t step on those–they’ll blow up”. The problem is that I’m almost positive that Armadillo is smart enough not to try and do LOX loading over asphalt. They may take what amount to financial risks, but they don’t flirt with danger like that. What makes me even more suspicious about the quote was that someone else who was out there at Armadillo just recently was saying that he was almost positive that they did all their work over concrete–not asphalt.
So anyway, I’m not sure who’s right on that last point, and I’m not sure if I really liked the slant of the article myself, but there was lots of excellent eye-candy, and most of the rest of the article was actually pretty good.